The beautiful synth pop from the band CHVRCHES often plays on the disconnect between singer Lauren Mayberry’s sweet vocals and heavy, almost industrial, backing tracks. It’s not the most obvious cover material for Muse, a band spawned out of the mid-’90s alt rock movement, but Muse recently played a cover of CHVRCHES’ “Lies” for the BBC Live Lounge.
Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an artist named Nouela. You probably haven’t heard of her, but you may have heard her music. She’s become a specialist in a weird but growing niche: covers recorded for movie and television trailers. Whether doing a piano “Sound of Silence” to promote a new HBO show or a brooding “Black Hole Sun” to promote Liam Neeson punching people, she’s found a quickly-growing way of getting her covers out there.
It struck me as part of a growing trend we’ve seen. More and more great covers seem to come from unexpected places. Sure, you’ve got still your standby sources, your b-sides, tribute albums, and radio shows. But new avenues for covers have increasingly crept in. This year saw a Sam Smith cover that is only available to hear under Grey’s Anatomy dialog (thankfully he’s recorded a few live versions too) and a whole covers album recorded to plug a Canadian TV show. Brands have fully embraced covers too, most recently My Morning Jacket’s “This Land Is Your Land” recorded for North Face ads, or Charli XCX and Bleachers trading covers for Kia.
We don’t care where they originated when we make our year-end lists, though, and we would up with some of everything. In our top five alone, we’ve got a live radio session, a deluxe-edition bonus track, and a cover hiding in plain sight on one of the most acclaimed country records of the year. You have to keep an eye on more places than ever to spot the best covers these days. Wherever they come from, we’re glad to have ’em.
Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.
– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)
If you have taken the time to listen to CHVRCHES album The Bones of What You Believe or the band’s contribution to the upcoming Hunger Games soundtrack, you know that the Scottish band excels in the realm of synth pop. For VH1’s You Oughta Know concert, front woman Lauren Mayberry teamed up with Bleachers to cover the timeless Fleetwood Mac single, “Go Your Own Way,” proving that at the very core, pop is her strength.
Bridie Monds-Watson, better known as SOAK, first made a splash on the musical blogosphere when her single “Blud” was remixed by CHVRCHES back in February. As one of the first signees on CHVRCHES new label, Goodbye Records, SOAK returned the favor with this tender take on “The Mother We Share.”
Last month, Billboard hosted a Women in Music luncheon, honoring pioneering women in the music industry. Janelle Monáe was named as Billboard’s Rising Star – appropriately so – during said luncheon, and to celebrate, Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches delievered a dreamy and dramatic rendition of Monáe’s infectious “Tightrope.”
What do a pop icon and a Scottish synthpop band have in common? As it turns out, a lot.
CHVRCHES recently turned their attention to Whitney Houston’s girls-night-out anthem “It’s Not Right, But It’s OK” creating a cover that would be as at home in a club as the original version was. It’s impossible to match Ms. Houston’s vocals, so Lauren Mayberry keeps her vocals fairly even keeled, allowing the heavy synth and industrial background to push the cover. It all results in the revelation that today’s retro synth sounds have an old pal in some past club tunes. What’s next, YACHT covers C&C Music Factory?